“The way I see it, the tamale is like a sandwich,” says Todd Martin, who started the Tucson Tamale Company in 2008. “You can do anything with it you can imagine.”
Among the taco maestro’s imaginings are vegetarian tamales and vegan tamales, as well as a thermonuclear “Tucson Tamale” for which the corn masa is supercharged with grilled jalapenos and cheese. Each is hand-rolled with ingredients that are sparkling fresh. We especially love what Todd has labeled the Arizona tamale – roasted sirloin and smoky chipotle chilies – as well as the Santa Fe tamale, made with pork loin and green chilies. Not too long ago he came up with the dogmale, a gloss on the notorious Sonoran hot dog!
Martin schooled us in green corn tamales, which traditionally are enjoyed during at the end of summer when corn is ripe and the chile harvest has begun. He explained that tamales ought never be made by a single, solitary cook. They should be the inspiration for a party.
In fact, the traditional tamale-making party, a harvest-time ritual in Sonoran Desert country, is so much fun that it changed Todd Martin’s life and ultimately led him to abandon his job as a corporate executive and start the restaurant. “The first time I ever made a tamale,” he recalls, “was when my sweetheart – now my wife – invited me to her parents’ house to make tamales on a Sunday in early September. I expected to spend a few hours helping here and there, but it turned out to be a whole day, and they did it right. They had exactly what you need to make green corn tamales: five bushels of corn, twenty-five pounds of roasted chiles and twenty people. Plus five cases of beer for the tamale makers to drink. That is the rule of green corn tamale making: one case of beer for each bushel of corn.”
Tucson Tamale Company has another location at 7159 E. Tanque Verde Rd.
Mail order sales are available. Visit the Tucson Tamale website for details.